It is your eighteenth birthday and one of your parents must die. You are the one who decides. Who do you pick?
In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.
Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work?
In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world?
Angry Robot always introduces me to the most unique novels, and The Offset is not the exception. No joke, this novel is brilliant, dark, and frightening. It was one of the hardest books I’ve had to rate recently. Do I rate solely on brilliance or my overall experience reading it? I’ll break down my thoughts!
Well, to start off, the premise is absolutely terrifying. Your parents are ALLOWED to “breed” but they must understand there’s a consequence: one of them WILL die on your 18th birthday. Could you bring children into the world knowing this? How would you feel as a child knowing that your parents subjected you to this traumatic event? Could you sacrifice the parent that you love more if it meant that the parent capable of saving the planet might live? Hats off to Calder Szewczak for the nightmare-inducing plot. I won’t lie, as a parent, I’ve wondered if we are bringing our kids into a doomed world with the way humanity and climate change are progressing, even though things are not as far gone as they are in The Offset. This book will not ease your mind any there, but it will make you more conscious of the world around you.
“Miri shakes her head in quiet disbelief. She is never going to have a child; she is never going to do to another living being what her parents have done to her. They knowingly condemned her to life on a dying planet in full knowledge of what that would mean and the hardships she would have to face.”
The Offset was completely devour-able, I took the whole book down in a short amount of time and felt that it flowed very well. I’ll admit, for how much I love the SFF and dystopian genres, I am not very well versed in the deeper realm of scientific terms. There were moments that I glazed over because they felt like scientific info-dumbs, but I won’t pretend like a smarter person than me might not be phased by this!
Miri is a petulant but aware teenager, and following her journey is interesting. I was hanging on to see which parent she sacrificed at the end. I found the way she cared for her lab rat endearing, but I will say that I couldn’t stomach the needless animal cruelty at one point. The way Miri was just accepting of this cruelty was a bit odd to me, too. Putting a trigger warning for a moment with a cigarette that turned my stomach. Honestly, the malicious treatment of an animal is always gonna knock a book down a few points in my book. That’s just a personal “can’t do” for me. I can handle animal death, an animal hurt in a battle, or an event unrelated to cruelty (though I’ll still be sad), but deliberately hurting an animal is something else.
This is a very dark and depressing book, but it’s really well written, intelligent, and thought-provoking. It races towards a climatic ending that will leave you disturbed and stunned long after you’ve read it. You can rest assured that The Offset will leave its mark on you. Thank you to Angry Robot for having me along on this blog tour!